The third annual Free Comic Book Day took place over the weekend on July 3, the first time that the industry-wide promotional event had been scheduled during the summer and during a holiday weekend. In spite of increasing publicity and the growing momentum that FCBD has gained over its 3-year history, the results of this year's FCBD were decidedly mixed. In addition to the retailers who wrote in to tell us how they did (see the 'Talk Back' section), ICv2 contacted a number of retailers around the country and received a variety of opinions concerning this year's FCBD activities.
None of the retailers we talked to had anything negative to say about the event itself, but more than a few were very unhappy about scheduling FCBD during a summer holiday weekend. The retailers we contacted with stores in college towns, prime locations for comic stores, definitely want next year's FCBD scheduled when school is in session either in the spring or fall. Rory Root of Comic Relief in Berkeley, California told ICv2 that the next FCBD should be scheduled in the springtime, whether a major comic book-based movie were opening or not. 'This should be a comic book event, not a movie event, and if it happens prior to the opening of a big comic book-based film, then the studios might even become more involved and give us the tools to promote the character and the movie as well,' Root told ICv2.
Bruce Ayres of Capital City Comics in Madison, Wisconsin echoed Root's sentiments, and also objected to some of the free comics, which he felt were more likely to promote TV viewing and movie-going rather than comic book reading, telling ICv2: 'They (the publishers) should be letting audiences sample their best new stuff, like Marvel's new Joss Whedon X-Men series, not a Spider-Man retread that has some remote tie-in to a movie.'
In spite of the scheduling and in spite of some locally difficult weather conditions, which ranged from 110-degree heat in the desert Southwest to monsoon-like rains in the Upper Midwest, a number of retailers did very well. Buddy Saunders of Lone Star Comics told ICv2 that the manager of one of his stores in Arlington, Texas used a major Fourth of July parade to his advantage by having employees hand out flyers to the assembled crowds, while other retailers reported successful promotions with movie theaters showing Spider-Man 2 as well as with local libraries. Chris Powell of Lone Star told ICv2 that sales for this year's FCBD were up 25% from last year.
Hal Johnson of Midtown Comics in Manhattan reported big lines and 'tons of people' crowding the store.
FCBD founder Joe Fields of Flying Colors in Concord, California clocked more than 1200 customers at his store and posted record sales, although he had to work hard on outreach efforts to gain that result. Fields spent money on TV ads promoting the event and also managed to get a front-page feature article in the local newspaper.
Fields also took detailed demographic notes about the crowds that showed up at his story and found that typical, hardcore comic demo of 12 -25 year-olds was the least well-represented on FCBD. The majority of his crowd was under 12 or over 25, demonstrating FCBD's potential to interest new readers and to bring back casual customers who may have let their comic book buying habits lapse.
All the retailers we talked to who did well on FCBD were forced to work at it -- outreach efforts were the key to their successes. Reports of widely different results from retailers in the same geographical area were fairly commonplace -- this year's event didn't yield many easy results.
Looking ahead to the fourth annual FCBD, it seems likely that it won't be scheduled in mid-summer. Even some of the retailers, including Joe Fields, who did manage a significant increase over last year's FCBD event, felt that the event would have been much more successful this year, if it had been held in May.
Here are the first Talk Back comments we have received:
'Jim Crocker of Modern Myths on Free Comic Book Day.'
'Marsha Giroux of All About Books and Comics on FCBD.'
'Rich Biedrzycki of Dreamland on FCBD.'
'Chris Karch of Redrum Comics on FCBD.'
'Cosmic Cat Comics & Games on FCBD.'
'Hafeez Amin of the Genesis Foundation on Free Comic Book Day.'